News 5 Investigates

Feb 6, 2014 10:24 PM by Eric Ross

News 5 Investigates: Are emergency crews prepared for wildfire in Broadmoor area?

As we gear up for what could be another active fire season, we're hearing first hand from the Broadmoor Fire-Rescue District and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo about their training and evacuation plans.

"I don't think anybody in this city looks up at the mountains and doesn't fear that something could happen," Broadmoor Fire-Rescue Chief Noel Perran said.

After the devastating Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires, you wanted to know what preparations are in place in the Broadmoor area in case a fire were to spark on or near Cheyenne Mountain.

Perran is hoping that doesn't happen, but is preparing for the worst case scenario.

"There's a huge exposure if the fire had a similar effect on the Broadmoor as it did in Black Forest," he said.

In a matter of hours, the Black Forest fire spread more than 7 miles and like the Black Forest area, the terrain of Cheyenne Mountain puts firefighters at a disadvantage.

"Just by the nature of the natural forest and the topography of this area, there are inaccessible areas that we would depend heavily on aircraft for," Perran said.

The Broadmoor Fire-Rescue District invested in better radio communication for air attacks just a few years ago.

"We now have air-to-ground radios in all of our initial response vehicles so that when we need to call in an aircraft for an initial attack or for follow-up air strikes, we have those channels already programmed into our radios," Perran said.

The fire district is putting all of its employees through mock fire training exercises in addition to ongoing mitigation to clear out and cut down on the fire threat. The Broadmoor Hotel alone invested more than $1 million in mitigation efforts.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is taking precautions as well.

"We have good irrigation systems and in some of our buildings we have irrigation not only inside per code (ordinance), but on the top of the building as well," zoo president Bob Chastain said.

The zoo has a three-step fire plan.

The first two priorities are to evacuate guests and employees, followed by making sure animals move into one of three safe houses. Currently, there is no plan to evacuate animals.

"I think people think there's going to be trailers running down the road with giraffe heads sticking out of them," Chastain said. "You're just not going to see that thing."

In fact, the zoo admits it would be next to impossible to evacuate the larger animals because there are only a few shippers in the world who are able to properly move them.

Chastain puts his faith in the safe house locations on zoo grounds which are built with non-combustible materials, but heat and smoke could still impact animals.

Back at the Broadmoor Fire Station, Chief Perran preps his staff for what may be in store over the next several months. Meanwhile, he advises people living in that area to prepare early.

"Don't wait for somebody to tell you to evacuate," he said. "Recognize that if you feel you're at risk, prepare and evacuate early."

Perran stresses the need for mitigation. If you have not done so already, there should be a 10-foot gap between the crowns of trees to avoid a fire spreading from canopy to canopy.

Also, your property should have an imaginary 100-300 foot mitigation shield around your property.



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